Diaries of a Syrian refugee: Man documents days trapped in Malaysian airport

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Humans are born free and seek to live free. Of the many reasons why one may be stripped of the freedom, prison reigns all – but for a 36-year-old Syrian man stuck at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, his passport became his virtual jail cell.

Hassan al-Kontar has been trapped at the Malaysian-based airport for over a month. The refugee has taken to Twitter to echo his story to the digital world in an attempt for change and a cry for help.

In a series of videos posted onto his Twitter page, Kontar shares a daily two-minute vlog documenting his airport escapade – a Tom Hanks “The Terminal” onscreen narrative come to life.

Lonely, weak, unwanted and rejected. Four words that Kontar chooses to define “what it feels like to be a Syrian.”

In his visual tweets, Kontar explained that he attempted to travel to countries that exempt Syrian nationals from obtaining a visa, however, on both occasions he failed.

His first attempt to leave the Malaysian airport was when he bought a ticket to Ecuador. Yet, Turkish Airlines, the carrier operating the flight to the south American country, denied him from boarding. “I lost a non-refundable $2,300,” said Kontar.

Trial two was a trip to Cambodia, but it only added salt to injury, Kontar’s passport was “confiscated upon arrival,” he said while speaking to the BBC.

Still, on April 5, Hassan marked his one-month anniversary at the transit terminal, a place he’s learned to call home. “It’s so difficult, I’m just counting days here with no hope.”

“What is the point of existing,” he added.

Embarking upon day 38, Kontar has taken a three-seater at a transit terminal as his home-away-from-home, accompanied by a neck pillow and a thin red blanket. “No place to shower, no place to sleep, I’m sick and there is no medicine,” he added.


Since, Kontar said that he was forced to pay a fine for “overstaying” in Malaysia and was named on the country’s “blacklist.”

The help-seeking vlogger has been away from Syria for over eight years. He also notes that if he returns to the war-torn country – physical prison is his fate as he is “wanted by the government.”

Despite his state, Kontar does not point fingers to a single cause. He says: “I can’t blame anyone, I can only blame us as Syrians. This is what we did to ourselves – keep fighting with each other.”

On this note, Kontar has on countless occasions sent a message directly to media outlets in the Arab world saying: “I would like to clarify that my case is a humanitarian one, not a political move.

“This matter is of importance not just to one person but an entire generation of young Arabs stuck in airports across the world.”

The refugee claims to have contacted various human rights’ organizations for a salvation to his predicament, but none have been able to help him.

Now, all Kontar can do is wait as nights’ fold into days – rinse and repeat. Supporters of his case attend to the daily shorts of a man in a grey and purple sweater, black frames topped with white earphones.

To this he says: “I don’t know why I’m keep doing these videos. Maybe somewhere deep inside my feelings or my heart … I meet someone who cares, be able to help but – somewhere. I know it’s hopeless. It’s a false hope.”

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